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Best of 1996
Norway

As 1996 now is history let's summarize the Sound of Norway as we saw it, or heard it. Roughly there were released about 100 albums related to the diversified genres of pop & rock. Approximately 1/3 of those releases had Norwegian lyrics, so there are quite a lot of bands and artists around with a slight desire to "hit" listeners outside the Norwegian borders. Not hard to understand, I suppose. With a population of only some 4 millions, just a limited number of bands/artists are able to make a living out of being in the music buisness. But, as long as there is artistic qualitiy and creativity, who really cares about the business... Enough said! Let's pick a handful of Albums Of The Year as a taster and a recommendation:

Motorpsycho: Blissard (Columbia - lp/cd)
Blissard - recorded at Atlantis Studios, Stockholm, Sweden (ABBA's old studio!) - was the 4th full album presented by the Trondheim-based Motorpsycho, and their best so far. This time a more "normal" record, due the their earlier double and triple(!) releases (on vinyl). They've also changed musically, and sort of left the 70's/prog-type wall of sound and the often screaming vocals, and moved into the "alternative" rockgenre. Still they're a bassdriven combo, with an extremely tight rhythm section, flavoured with the most elegant and effective guitarplaying. A blissful single choice - The Nerve Tattoo - are among the highlights. Simply a blistering song with speed and beauty, and a string-arrangement. Album of the year, no doubt! Watch out for Motorpsycho's alter-ego: The International Tussler Society - a country-outfit!

DumDum Boys: Sus (Oh Yeah - lp/cd) (Sus; means whistling, buzzing)
Originally from Trondheim, now based in Oslo; DumDum Boys celebrated their10th anniversary last year, releasing their 6th studio album. It was recorded in Seed Studio, Melbourne, Australia, and this time they've added some modernish sounds and rhythms to their basic riffdriven rock. They have been Regents of Norwegian rock for some years, with their cunning, sketchy-like lyrics (in Norwegian), quite often perfect for sing-alongs. And mostly on the right side of the rock and roll clichés. DumDum Boys are getting older without growing into boring old farts. They're still one of the most energetic live-acts in Norway.

Astroburger: Stand On It (Big Ball Records - lp/cd)
Yet another band to be considered as "veterans"; the weird and charming gang of Astroburger, from Oslo. The forthcoming spring they're going to celebrate their 10th birthday, so lets hope for some more attention from the public for the next 10 years. There has been a lot of line-up changes over the years, but Astro-headman Geir goes on, continuing the mission of writing more beautiful, sad love-songs, mainly of the broken type. Stand On It was their 3rd album, and they're still on the poppy side of rock, with up-tempo, fuzzy pop, spiced with a semi-manic organ. And, as usual, there's a fistful of whimsy instrumentals thrown in. Highly amusing, definitely entertaining! Will we ever witness the birth of their long-time-planned Rock Opera?

Poor Rich Ones: Naivety's Star (Rec 90 - cd)
From a selfappointed "band of naivety", came this charming debut from these youngsters from Bergen. Since they started out as a folk-oriented band in 1990, they've now turned into some sort of acoustic-based pop-band, without leaving their folk-inspiration behind. With their highly melodic songs, driven by the high-pitch vocals, they sound like sweet and tender innocence. With the song Mummy - the theme from a TV-series for children - they got a minor-major radio-hit. If they keep on I guess they'll finally reach their star. Let's hope it won't be "Professionality's Star".

Velvet Belly: The Landing (BMG - cd)
From the southernmost parts of Norway, based in Kristiansand, Velvet Belly are hovering with the seabreezes. They were picked up by BMG back in 1995 and this was their major debut, after releasing 3 albums for the indie-company dBut. Velvet Belly got their name from a song by This Mortal Coil, and they're musically related to and inspired of several of the bands on the 4AD label. This is ambient-like indie-pop, interweaving air and the sea, fire and earth. Both minimalistic and ambitious at the same time. On top of the often dreamlike soundscapes floats the pretty voice of their vocalist Anne Marie Almedal. Soft as velvet, soft as a belly can be.

Israelvis: Eurosis (Progress - cd)
Another bunch of veterans; punkmetal-gurus Israelvis of Trondheim. From starting out as the anarcho-punkish Angor Wat in the early eighties they took the name Israelvis in 1988. Eurosis was their 4th full album, I think. With a schizofrenic mixture of metal and rhythms from techno and hip-hop they throw you into a whirlpool; this is dance-metal with speed and punch, samples and snarling guitars. Take the song Everest; it begins almost blues-like, only to accelerate into an explosive chorus, with Israelvis on full force attack. Maybe not music to rush the masses, but sure a massive rush of music!


Except from Velvet Belly the other five contributed with tracks on an album of various artists: Ellediller & Krokofanter ("Elediles and Crocophants") (Progress - cd) - a tribute to the duo Knutsen & Ludvigsen (1970-1983); the most excellent entertainers of all time in Norway. Sort of anarchopsychedelia for children (and others), with brilliant songs (some fun, a bit sadness, then even more fun). They made music other artists would have...died for.

Copyright © 1997 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

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